Welcome to HEN - Transforming Conflict for our Health, Environment, Negotiation

HEN is published each month by Julia Menard:
Helping the Workplace Engage - One Tough Conversation at a Time!

HEN arrives at the full moon - 
because light transforms darkness.   

Full Moon: April 25, 2013 - Year 11, Issue 4
Table of Contents:

HEALTH - Pet Your Lizard Daily

Recently, I was feeling overwhelmed about a routine task I was facing (bookkeeping). I couldn’t understand it – and it was a pretty simple one. A friend of mine pointed out the link between money and survival – and how it is easy to trigger some pretty primitive feelings around money fairly quickly.

After offering that insight, she suggested I might want to go easy on myself. In fact, she suggested self-soothing language like: “Just realize your little child inside is scared. Tell her it’s okay.  You can do this! It’s not too scary!” 

Just hearing her say those words to me helped me calm down and I was able to go back and complete most of the routine tasks on that bookkeeping list.

When I came across a practice that neuropsycholgist Rick Hanson suggests, it explained this moment. 

Neuroscience tells us the brain developed in three stages over 600 million years:
  • Reptile – Brainstem, focused on avoiding harm (fear based)
  • Mammal – Limbic system, focused on approaching rewards (pleasure based)
  • Primate – Cortex, focused on attaching to “us” (love based)
Each function works together but is particularly served by the region of the brain that first evolved to handle it.

According to Hanson, the brainstem is the least plastic area of the brain – which means it needs the most repetitions of a behaviour to change. This area is about feelings of concern, anxiety, overwhelm, fear. The antidote is many repetitions of feeling safe, protected, and at ease.

The way Hanson described how to soothe this area of the brain – sounded a lot like what my friend had suggested to me. Except – instead of embracing one’s inner child – Hanson is suggesting petting one’s inner lizard! ☺

He suggests whenever we notice ourselves in an anxious state, start by appreciating how scared that little “lizard” is inside of each one of us. As he says:

“Lizards – and early mammals, emerging about 200 million years ago – that were not continually uneasy and vigilant would fail the first test of life in the wild: eat lunch – don’t be lunch – today.

So be aware of the ongoing background trickle of anxiety in your mind, the subtle guarding and bracing with people and events as you move through your day. Then, again and again, try to relax some, remind yourself that you are actually alright right now, and send soothing and calming down into the most ancient layers of your mind.”

In addition to soothing self-talk, Hanson suggests we can also do something differently with our bodies to reinforce that all is well:

“Most of the signals coming into the brain originate inside the body, not from out there in the world. Therefore, as your body settles down, that sends feedback up into your brain that all is well – or at least not too bad. Take a deep breath and feel each part of it, noticing that you are basically OK, and letting go of tension and anxiety as you exhale; repeat as you like. Shift your posture – even right now as you read this – to a more comfortable position.”

My newest favourite self-soothing is a simple rub on my shoulder (the “there there” kind). I accompany it with a “There, there” kind of tone of voice. Perhaps an “All is well right now” message. I just did it now. Lovely! Sometimes it’s in my heart area – a kind pat – together with a reassuring word or two. This is an easy way to put the self-talk and the body calming together.

Stop for just a second. Try it yourself. And again. Ahhh!

Because the reptile brain is something we all have – and because it takes a lot of repetition to install new behaviours in this area – Hanson recommends a daily practice of self-soothing:

“As you do activities such as eating, walking, using the bathroom, or going to bed, keep bringing awareness to the fact that you are safe, that necessary things are getting done just fine, that you are alive and well.”

Pet your lizard – daily!

ENVIRONMENT - Farmland For Sale

A HEN reader emailed me last month to let me know that land we have in Canada to use for us to grow our own food (farmland) – is being bought up at “alarming rates” by foreign investors, governments, and corporations.

Why does this matter? 

Firstly, our food system has been built on small, family-owned farmland – where local farmers grow the food we buy at our local grocery stores. 

This is a privilege – since in some countries people are not allowed to own their own farmland. This has huge implications for sovereignty, obviously.

It’s become more difficult to make a living as a Canadian farmer; many are finding themselves in debt or near retirement. As farmers become no longer able (or willing) to afford to own their own farmland, more and more farmland is up for sale right across our country. With our baby-boom generation starting to retire, this has a ripple effect for farmland for sale.

Without any guiding legislation from most provincial governments across the country, we are losing locally-owned farmland.

As foreign investors and corporation buys these large tracts of farmland from our farmers  – their focus is to make money, not on food security or sustainability. The profits and the food are taken out of the country. And since they are still eligible for subsidies from our government, we are also giving taxpayer money to foreign investors. This has been outlined in a report prepared by the National Farmers Union called Losing Our Grip.

An October, 2012 article in the Globe and Mail Report on Business outlines the impact in Saskatchewan:

“These investors, who come mainly from China, South Korea and India, are buying up farmland, by the hectare, often in cash, and frequently becoming landlords to dozens of local farmers…. For these investors, the plan is simple: Buy up acres of land, partner with a local farmer to grow the crops, and then ship the produce directly to customers in China…. Real estate agents say the number of deals to non-residents has soared in the past couple of years and the influx of Chinese immigrants in particular is getting noticed.”

One real estate agent quoted in a Globe and Mail article, emigrated from China in 2004. He’s only been a real estate agent for four months, and already owns nearly 2,000 acres of farmland. He also has 100 clients including a group of 10 investors who’ve put up $20-million to buy “whatever he can find.”

Saskatchewan has been targetted as farmland is “cheap” there – though it is happening across the country.

We have different foreign ownership rules in different provinces. Even when some provinces do put in legislation (like “only Canadian citizens, permanent residents and 100-per-cent Canadian-owned companies allowed to hold title to more than 10 acres of farmland”) – there are loopholes. 

One gaping hole is the lack of clarity as to whether titleholders can be backed by foreign investors. Also, most provinces don’t keep track of the number of non-residents buying land. Officials also don’t probe too deeply into how the transactions are financed or whether offshore investors are involved.

BC doesn’t have any restricting legislation for foreign ownership of farmland at the moment. My friend was at a conference in February where she asked the present BC Agriculture Minister, Norm Letnick, what his thoughts were on foreign ownership of BC farmland. 

He said he hadn't even thought about it. He didn't know it could be an issue. 

On a brighter note, the local association for municipalities on Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities just passed a resolution to petition our provincial government to look into this issue. 

There is a provincial election coming up in B.C. May 14th. This would be a good question to ask anyone running for office: 

Are you aware of the status of the current foreign ownership of farmland inside and outside the Agricultural Land Reserve in BC?

Where ever you live – do you know what the foreign ownership laws are governing farmland in your area? Good to know!

“The first farmer was the first man. All historic nobility rests on the possession and use of land."
… Ralph Waldo Emerson

NEGOTIATION - Peace-Making Shaman

"To a mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders."
… Lao Tzu

About 4 years ago, I registered for two courses that seemed at two ends of the spiritual spectrum – and neither seemed related to mediation. 

One was a weekend retreat with a visiting Tibetan Monk and Meditation Master – Mingyur Rinpoche. I had just read two books of his – both of which had “Joy” in the title: Joyful Wisdom and The Joy of Living. I wanted to know what this joyful laughing Monk had to teach.

Around the same time, I registered for a Level 1 Reiki class with a little powerhouse of a Catholic Nun called Sister Eileen Curteis. I’d heard of Reiki – but had no intention of “practicing it.” I didn’t see myself as a “healer” and had no desire to develop into one.

Yet here I was – pulled both towards Western religion and Eastern mysticism – and at the same time!

What was that about?

Part of it is my insatiable appetite and passion for learning about what transforms us. I got that in spades with Mingyur Rinpoche. The weekend was full of laughter, delight, learning, and a lightness I had never felt before (or since).

With Reiki, the journey was deeper. I did the Level 1 weekend, but then felt called to do Level 2 a few months later. That wasn’t enough and I went back again for training to obtain my Master level Reiki designation. I still go to regular support groups and the occasional Reiki immersion weekend. 

I didn’t really see a direct connection with my role as a mediator until I read my friend and colleague’s Ben Hoffman’s new book: Peaceweaving: Shamanistic insights into mediating the transformation of power.

It is both touching and inspiring to read about the generation of healers Ben was born into. Ben has worked in very intense conflict situations – from prisons to diplomatic mediations to negotiations in the jungles of Uganda with notorious political leaders like Lords Resistance Army's leader Joseph Kony.

Because of a two year bout with a painful illness (culminating in harrowing surgery), Ben started to look at mediation in a different light. In his words:

“Conflict is all about negative energy. People accuse one another of having or projecting ‘bad vibes’… Cleansing negative energy may indeed be the essential challenge for mediators…The Mediator, working somewhat like the shaman does, has to discern where the negative energy that is standing in the way of resolution is, where it comes from, and then take action to deal with it.”

Not everyone relates to the language of shamanism, or Tibetan Buddhism, or Reiki for that matter. But what Ben’s book made clear to me is the central task in resolving conflict is attending to the spirit in conflict. 

We don’t tend to talk about spirit as a direct part of the work of resolving conflict. We have a presumption that there are “skills” to be learned, processes to be followed, guidelines to create. 

However, Ben surmises that those in our field often start out with a “spiritual orientation that makes us choose work where we can be servants of peace.” 

As I think back, so many of the colleagues who I love and respect – did get their start in “spiritual endeavours.” Whether it’s a colleague who started out in religious studies. Another who did his Masters in Theology. Another few multi-generational Quakers. Another a long-time meditator dedicated years to pursuing meditation and enlightenment.

So, whether it’s Reiki, Tibetan Meditation, Shamanism, or some other spiritual pursuit, recognizing our need to address the unseen brings a whole new dimension to resolving conflict. It calls on all of us peace-makers – whether in a professional role or not – to deepen our spiritual practice. We must all be like the Shaman– dedicated to transforming the negative energy in ourselves and the world.

Click here to check out Ben’s book.

“People with spiritual power impart a sense of inner peace. Their power is evidence of a tremendous investment they have made in working through their own negative experiences, their shadow side. It has been said that the stronger the light an individual displays, the deeper the shadow which serves to profile that luminescence. People with spiritual power have this quality of self-knowledge.”
… Elinor Powell, The Heart of Conflict


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Julia Menard, B.A., Cert. Con. Res., P.C.C.
Leadership & Conflict Coaching, Mediating, & Training

I love to inject more collaboration into the workplace! If you think I might be able to help you realize that vision - please contact me. Tell me what you need and let's see how I can best assist you!

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In fact, managers spend 25 percent to 40 percent of their time attempting to resolve conflict (Washington Business Journal) - yet most leaders receive minimal - or no - training on how to resolve conflicts collaboratively.
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  • Does conflict make you break out in a sweat?
  • When it doesn’t go well, can you feel a tension so thick you can cut it with a knife?
Most people loathe conflict.  I know - I used to be one of them!

But, through years of practice, and study, and working in the field as a professional mediator, trainer and conflict coach – I’ve seen the power in conflict – both to damage and enhance relationship.
It’s all in how you approach it!

I pride myself on creating a learning experience that is relaxed, safe, and relevant. Whether it's sharing self-management tips, discussing hot button issues or describing how to bring up a tough topic, there's no shortage of conversation topics.
Most importantly, this workshop offers a practical model for how to start and sustain a collaborative conversation. It incorporates interpersonal communication concepts from Interest-based Negotiation, Non-Violent Communication, and Clear Leadership.

Topics include:

  • Getting Out of Your Own Way
  • Separating Fact from Fiction
  • Linking Feelings to Needs

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“ 'Kindness' covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out."
… Roger Ebert 1942 - 2013

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